New Brunswick

Anglophone East takes steps to detect abusive volunteers

Committee made up of teachers, principals and district staff hopes to augment policies currently in place to protect students.

Committee struck after Riverview basketball coach charged with sexual assault

The committee of teachers, principals and district staff wants to look beyond the usual methods of filtering out potential abusers. (Shutterstock)

The Anglophone East school district has struck a committee to explore how to better protect students from potential abusers.

The committee made up of teachers, principals and district staff hopes to augment policies currently in place to protect students.

This comes after a Riverview basketball coach, 32-year-old Shawn Curtis Nickerson, faced dozens of charges, including  sexual assault, voyeurism and making child pornography. 

Aubrey Kirkpatrick, the director of finance and administration for the Anglophone East School District, said the committee wants to look beyond the usual methods of filtering out abusers, like criminal record checks, which he said can miss abusers if they haven't been charged.

"That's why we want to try to look at this overall picture of having adults in the system aware of what abuse looks like, what is professional behaviour and what isn't, and have the opportunity for our students to understand what is appropriate and inappropriate contact with adults," said Kirkpatrick.

Kirkpatrick said the committee wants to focus on three p's: policy, program and practice.

The policy would lay out what is and isn't acceptable, the program would offer seminars for volunteers, and practice would encourage people to point out abuse.

Kirkpatrick said signs of abuse could be a coach taking a student athlete to supper, inviting a student to activities not open to teammates, or having a relationship on social media.

Shawn Curtis Nickerson, 32, is charged with child pornography and voyeurism offences involving at least seven victims. Nickerson was a volunteer basketball coach in Riverview. (Shawn Nickerson/Facebook)

He said the district wants people to report something that might be wrong, even if they aren't sure.

"I think what we've seen, you know, in doing some of the research so far is that in these cases, people have, you know, that fifth sense," said Kirkpatrick.

"When you ask, 'Well, did you know about this?' And people say, 'You know, I always had a feeling about that, but I didn't do anything. … What we want to do is create that environment so that people are aware of what is and what isn't appropriate."

Kirkpatrick said the district also wants to have a central volunteer database so officials can more easily detect a problem.

He said the committee wants to have the new measures in place by September.

With files from Information Morning Moncton

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